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Dating back to the Middle Ages, Normandy was home to a number of Premonstratensian abbeys. However, the Mondaye Abbey was founded in 1202 by a Swiss abbey, due to the persistence of a priest, Father Turstin, and his followers. Father Turstin turned to the Bishop Jourdain du Hommet, who called upon the Lucerne Abbey in Switzerland for help.
The abbey is located on a hill, called Mont d'Aë - in Latin, Mons Dei, which means "mountain of God." The Normandy abbey fell victim to several religious wars throughout the century, not helped by the corrupt kings who abused their powers, the religious orders always being on the receiving end of said abuse. However, the Premonstratensians of the Middle Ages were known for their hospitality and warmth. In fact, Louis XI established a hospital in Paris, encouraging the workers to reflect the very qualities of the Norbertines themselves!
In 1706, a long overdue reconstruction of the abbey took place. Credit must be given to Father Eustache Restout, who was the Norbertine and architect of the abbey, who lead the reconstruction, which terminated in 1745. The restoration is something to admire even today, including a cloister, cathedral chapter, refectory, and cells. The last abbot of Prémontré, L'Ecuy, is buried in the central aisle of the nave of the abbey church.
After the French Revolution, as did many religious orders in France, the members of Mondaye Abbey scattered. Fortunately, in 1859, monks from Grimbergen Abbey in Belgium came to Mondaye to reinstall religious life. The notorious mal du siècle in France (the fickle, ever-changing French government and politics of the 19th century) called for another expulsion of the canons, where the Prémontrés fled to Belgium to seek religious peace. Mondaye proved, however, to forever be religious ground, and they decided to return for good in 1921.
The abbey has formidably survived 800 years of hardships, from the Hundred Years War to World War II. In fact, the abbey was the first abbey to be liberated by allied troupes in 1944. It is located very close to Omaha Beach, and offered generous hospitality to many pilgrims from the war. Every year on June 6, the Mondaye community pays respects to the fallen soldiers of Normandy. Mondaye Abbey at long last received legal recognition, on February 7, 1978, being officially recognized as a corporate body. Today, the abbey holds 48 members. They have always been true to St. Norbert's wishes, living a life focused on the liturgy, St. Augustine, Canon Law, while also spreading spiritual message in the community.
Those who explore Mondaye Abbey's rich history are still actively engaged today. Founded in 1976, the Center of Premonstratensian Research and Studies (Le Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Prémontrées) studies and researches everything that touches on the Norbertine order on spiritual, historical, artistic, and archaeological levels. CERP facilitates research and studies by assuring the fluid contact between people interested in the abbey, and ensuring correct information distribution. It also includes restoration projects for maintaining the abbey facilities. Every year, CERP holds conferences, open to anyone, on a given theme related to the order's history.
Compiled by Emily Sparapani using various sources from Mondaye Abbey, Normandy, France.